An Ephemeral Cloud You Will Never See Live

by An Xiao on March 16, 2012

Bernddaut Smilde's Nimbus. All images via

Bernddaut Smilde's Nimbus. (All images via

LOS ANGELES — Olafur Eliasson turned the Tate’s Turbine Hall into a cloud. Doug Wheeler made it feel like we’re in a cloud. And now one artist, Berndaut Smilde, is putting a cloud in the gallery.

Berndnaut Smilde's NimbusThe images went viral, but I first noticed them on io9, which explained that the cloud pops up only for a moment in a highly regulated environment before it disappears entirely. The photos, then, likely had to be taken at just the right moment, making for a beautiful image of ethereal nature seeming almost permanent inside the gallery.

The piece, called “Nimbus” (2010), appeared for online gallery Probe (though it has had been staged elsewhere), and the only way to experience the piece is through documentation. After searching around, I couldn’t even locate video. But that’s the purpose of Probe: despite having a brick and mortar space, it can only be experienced through the photos afterward. (Which brings up all kinds of questions about the reality of the work and how we experience it.)

Here’s what Smilde said in an interview with the gallery:

The idea I had was going to be an ephemeral work. It would only exist as a photo. I thought this would work very well with the idea of Probe, as the exhibitions only exist in the form of documentation … The nine different perspectives of documentation make it possible for the spectator to wander around the space and create the opportunity of visiting the exhibition.

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